The much anticipated San Francisco Triathlon is returning to the Tri-California race series this month (August 21). This race, designed by athletes for athletes, features a 1.2 mile swim in San Francisco Bay, 23 mile bike through the San Francisco hills and a scenic, yet challenging, 6.1 run on oceanside trails. While this is a stunning race; it is tough. However, with proper training and preparation you will be ready to conquer the course on race day.

We checked in with professional triathlete Emily Cocks to get her top tips for race day. Emily has raced this course 9 times as both an amateur and professional.

10 Tips for a Successful San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz

Each leg of the San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz has its own unique challenges. Executing a good race requires an athlete to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. Here are some things to keep in mind as you get ready to tackle the race course on August 21.

1. Be prepared for anything on the swim. It could be calm conditions. It could be extremely choppy. Most often, the conditions change in the middle of the swim. There are areas of calm water but it does get choppy. Stay calm and when the water gets rough keep your arms turning over fast.

2. Sometimes the water temperature reading in August is warmer, maybe 58-60º. Personally, I think it is still pretty cold. Just like the water conditions, the temperature can change throughout the swim. There are cold pockets. My advice is to prepare for the cold. The air temperature is on the cooler side making it less likely you will overheat. A neoprene hood will help keep a lot of heat in and this is essential when you jump on your bike.

3. The chatter on the boat is usually “where do I sight?” Honestly, it freaks me out too and I have done this swim 10 times! Go to the pre-race meeting and they will have the most up to date information on the current in the bay. On race day, err on the side of caution and sight more to the left. It is better to screw up and have to swim along the shore current assisted than to overshoot the beach and have to swim against the current to the swim exit.

4. Have a plan for your swim to bike transition. You will be slightly discombobulated from the cold water during the swim. Take a deep breath and be methodical. If you are someone who gets cold easily have toe covers on your cycling shoes and put on a pair of gloves. It is worth it to waste 30 seconds and then stay warm while you are cycling. You will lose a lot more time freezing on the bike course. In addition, a piece of mylar blanket under your jersey (put there before the swim) can act as a windbreaker and keep the core warm. You can dispose of it later in the race.

5. The bike course is a lot of up and down. There are two flat sections, along Crissy Field and the Great Highway. The best time to take in nutrition is on the flat sections and when you are climbing. Keep both hands on the handlebars while descending. The descents are fast and some are technically demanding. Pay attention for your own safety and of those around you.

6. Nutrition wise, I dissolve a couple gels in my water bottle so I do not have to deal with anything else on the bike. I just have to take sips out of my bottle and I get everything I need to stay hydrated and fueled for the race. Keep it simple!

7. As you run across Crissy Field use the flatter terrain to find your rhythm and get ready to climb some hills.

8. There are stairs when you start climbing up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Take them one at a time. Do not create a bunch of lactic acid and tire yourself out too early by bounding up them two at a time. You will need that energy for later on in the run!

9. It is a race but make sure you enjoy the scenery. You will be treated to views of the ocean, the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. Soak it in! Plus, this may help take your mind off the pain in your legs.

10. Watch for two way traffic on your way back to the finish line. They have widened the trails which makes it easier to avoid other athletes. You will fly downhill to the stairs–be careful, keep your hand on the railing as you descend the steps. It is a little less than two miles to the finish line so pour it on across Crissy Field. Make sure you smile when you cross the finish line too!

Good luck and happy racing!

Emily Cocks

Follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram.
Twitter: @EmilyCocks
Instagram: @swimmerwhotris

Image by Sean Dulany.
Twitter: @930rcr
Instagram: @930rcr_sports

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